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EPIC FTC Madness

Happy Friday the 13th!

You know that look your pets give you when you are vacuuming?

No not this look:

Scared dog

More like the ‘I will eat you if you get any closer’ look.. ?

That was the look on my face as I read reports today that the Electronic Privacy Information Center has formally requested that the FTC investigate Google’s new social search features for anti-competitive nature and privacy violations.

So what this did is prove? In my personal opinion it proves that someone at EPIC is either a complete fool or funded by Facebook. Here’s why it’s so amazing:

If I want to ‘violate privacy’ in the eyes of EPIC I’d do an image search (on any search engine) for ‘teen mirror facebook’ and I’d get a slew of images teens have taken of themselves in front of a mirror and posted to Facebook. That’s all I’d have to do, and by EPIC’s standards I’ve ‘violated privacy rights’ by getting access to these pictures which are marked ‘public’ on Facebook. This would be no different from me choosing to see search results from my Google+ interests.

If I wanted to make my browser anti-competitive in the eyes of EPIC I’d go into my search settings and I’d add a modifier for my search engine URLs that would add ‘facebook’ as a verbatim keyword that must be in every search result. By clicking those options I’ve now set my browser up for a big fall and stern letters should be written to the FTC immediately to urge them to spend millions of dollars investigating these horrible anti-competitive atrocities. Again, this is no different from me deciding to specifically look at Google+ results when searching.

Heck now that I’ve pointed out that browser software has pre-meditated options to allow anti-competitive behaviour, I guess EPIC will be writing letters to the FTC demanding to have the browser manufacturers investigated to put a stop to people having access to features which allow them to choose a particular service over another.

If my hair wasn’t so short I think I’d be pulling it all out right now in dismay over such examples of non-thought. Perhaps I’ll go trim Chia Bart instead, he’s almost getting ‘shaggy’ now.

If I took even more pictures we could animate Bart!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:39 pm on January 13, 2012


 

SEO Effects of Social Search

Yesterday we covered the hot topic of Google’s social search from a very ‘news’ perspective. If you haven’t watched the tour video take a minute and hit play on the video below.

The truth is that Google is rolling this new search functionality piecemeal just in the same way as most of the recent features. So if I try to explore the option from my work account I get no offers and I’d have to cheat to go play with it right now.

However, on my personal account the option comes right up and my personal account has a smaller social circle than my work account so it seems to me that it’s just a work-in-progress at the moment.

A visit to the Google Inside Search site gives us a bit more confirmation:

If you aren’t seeing the features of Search plus Your World, don’t worry, we’re rolling them out over the next few days.

.. so if you’re not getting the option to try it out, it should come along soon!

Here’s a ‘hands on’ example of ‘Search plus Your World’ for a phrase I personally talk about a lot, ‘minecraft’:

Demonstration of Search plus Your World using the phrase 'minecraft'.

The first thing that occurs to me is that Danny talks about Minecraft WAY more than anyone else, but the second thing that gets my interest is that there’s nothing in the results that I wouldn’t have read or couldn’t get from poking my head into Google+.

Going back to that video from Google that we linked earlier, I have to admit this looks like a very over-hyped feature where 90% of the interesting parts of the video aren’t things we can do with the new search feature. This almost feels like a Microsoft product that was invented by marketers as something to market with zero user interest?

Well that’s my opinion dealt with, but what about SEO factors of this new feature?

A ton of questions come to mind that need to be answered, here’s a few :

  • Who stands to gain from these types of searches?
  • What sites will be negatively impacted?
  • What should websites be doing to take advantage of this new feature?

The first one’s easy, Google, and particularly, Google+ will gain the most from this new search behaviour. Google has always wanted you to find what you want within their domain/services, and limiting your search to a Google owned property, selling it as a great feature, works so well for Google’s overall goals. If you don’t believe that Google wants to keep you inside their services, as you use Google products challenge yourself to consider ‘What more could Google do to keep me inside their networks?’ and I think you’ll start seeing all the efforts they are making to give you what you want instantly vs. leaving Google to visit an external site.

Social media sites that were getting a lot of commercial traffic/advertising will be the hardest hit by this move. If a client came to me and said “We’re on all the big sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Squidoo, etc.. but we haven’t bothered with Google+.” I would be forced to assume they were Australian with such an opposite approach. The same thing would follow with campaign strategies where a company looking at time spent vs. returns would be silly to start a social media campaign anywhere but on Google+ first.

If you have a website that isn’t already following the guidelines for linking between Google+ and your site, you need to start there and then work on building up followers. Ideally you want people talking about your products/services more than your competition so I’d strongly urge someone within your company to engage in Google+ social media efforts on a weekly basis if not more. While it’s pointless to have infinite reach and zero relevance, you also want to be very ‘friendly’ doing whatever it takes to get people to take enough interest in your company pages to follow, +1, add to circles, etc..

In fact the last bit of advice will be a recurring theme for early 2012 where we will be looking at super organic ways to get your product/services out to relevant sections of the internet.

A good example would be a product that is easy to find on-line, but very technical/tricky to work with. Selling the product puts you in the same group as everyone else selling that product, but offering expertise on that product will raise your profile quickly while generating interest/informing potential clients. If you can get links from grateful recipients the effort will pay for itself, and the people you come in contact with are very likely to draw in more clients due to the way that social media is sharing business leads via friend connections.

Typical of Spring, the sooner you plant this ‘social seed’ the sooner it will grow into something that can support your on-line efforts.

Speaking of growing, Chia Bart is getting a little leafy already!

Chia Bart is sprouting nicely.Bart’s beans are sprouting!

SEO news blog post by @ 3:17 pm on January 11, 2012


 

Panda’s take on Popular vs. Productive

I’ve seen a few SEO blog posts recently on post-panda content concerns that unsurprisingly contradict each other.

The “popular” camp seem to feel the following is true:

- Don’t post anything off topic
- Don’t post anything that won’t be a hit
- If you post something that fails, pull it
- If you can’t pull a post, fake the popularity

So what that means is pulling your punches until you have a post that’s really going to draw attention to your blog.
The SEO logic is that while regular content creates a positive metric, anyone can produce regular content and in fact loads of unpopular content could become a negative ranking factor.

The “productive” camp follow these golden rules:

- Don’t post content that isn’t unique
- Don’t spin content to create unique content
- Keep keyword densities high
- Keep a low ratio of links in proportion to images/text

This group spend all their time creating content and don’t spend time worried about how popular every post will be.

The SEO logic with “producers” is that the Panda update wants to see regular fresh content publications without duplication of existing content, only ‘really bad’ content can harm this ranking factor.

Well I hate to be a pacifist, but both sides are correct! A great strategy would be to listen to BOTH sides.

  • If every post on your blog gets 300+ links on the day it’s posted, that’s not going to look organic
  • If your blog gets one post, every single day, and nobody links to them, that’s not organic either

So post regularly, but don’t sweat it if you miss one day. If you are having a slow day for topics, you should try to go find some discussions where you can generate interest/back-links to your existing posts. At worst you’ll find some topics that are far more interesting that what you’ve been blogging about and you’ll get something fresh to discuss.

A post in draft, waiting for perfection, won’t do you much good if it never gets published. :)

Those of you shocked to see us on SEO blog topics right now can rest assured we’re struggling to stay on topic.

Oh the SOPA debate is frightful,
But MAFIAAFire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no position to SEO,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn’t show signs of shoop’ing,
I’ve got a report showing keywords are ranking,
And the competition’s phrases are way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally reach page one,
How I’ll hate going on the phone!
But if you’ll order via email,
It will make it to your home without fail.

The lyric is slowly ending,
And, my dear, we’re badly rhym-ing,
But as long as you let me SEO,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:05 pm on December 20, 2011


 

We’d feel dirty not posting about SOPA today..

This is the day folks, the bill is in Congress as I type and here’s some good spots to follow the proceedings closely:
Dirty Bar of Soap
EFF Twitter Feed
Justin.tv re-broadcast of the live feed

Wondering what all the fuss is about?
Here’s a great read:
Wikipedia -> Stop Online Piracy Act

Who supports SOPA?
Domino Project’s SOPA Supporter List

What sort of organizations are opposed to SOPA?. It was such a bad move that Wikipedia was publicly contemplating a blackout of the service just to make it clear how bad the bill is!

There’s also a few very active/current discussions over on Reddit in the r/technology section that give a good ‘nerds eye view’ of the bill reading.

Wonder why Google was opposed to the bill? Here’s a humorous take on the essence of their fears:
Mockery of SOPAs effect on Google in 2012

If I had to personally sum everything up into a TL;DR I would have to go with:

“Artist and labour groups who don’t have a nerdy understanding of how the internet works and how to approach piracy are joining with other anti-piracy groups to fast-track an ill-considered and potentially dangerous bill.

While most folks don’t understand the internet enough to argue the bill as experts the general reaction today has been “we are rushing something we don’t understand and we can’t proceed”.

With any luck that’ exactly how bill H.R.3261 will end, some potential, but not ready. *fingers crossed*

SEO news blog post by @ 10:42 am on December 15, 2011


 

How Rich-Snippets for Apps Increase CTR

Yesterday Beanstalk Blogger, Ryan Morben introduced a list of 10 New Changes to the Google Algorithm. One of the new updates that he mentioned was the use of "Better Snippets." I thought I would take this opportunity to elaborate on these further.

In September this year, Google introduced rich snippets to be used for reviews, events and music sites. This was an effort to help users determine if a particular website had the relevant information they were searching for. The snippets allow you to get information about the applications, reviews and pricing within the actual search results before you download the app.

These rich snippets are becoming increasingly important for not just sites offering mobile apps, but for all software applications available to be downloaded. These rich snippets are becoming increasingly critical for software developer sites, software publishers, download portals and review sites to standout from the rest of the SERPs.

This new rich snippets has two additional attributes that help to specify which countries are currently supporting the new app, and which ones are not. However at this time, there is no formal standardization for the format specifications on schema.org.

Sites that have utilized this new snippet, specifically those with large review sections, or downloadable content, show much larger images in the SERPs than the author rich snippets. These larger images inevitably lead to larger CTRs and ultimate help to increase conversions.

serp pic 1
serp pic 2

Google will also inevitably prefer those sites using rich snippets/microformats that have more complete and detailed meta data. For this reason, it is imperative to provide meaningful data in all the available attribute areas and not to only fill in the required ones. You should always test new rich snippets and apply to Google to clear the new extensions in the SERPs to help boost your CTRs.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:12 am on November 16, 2011


 

10 new changes to Google algorithms

New features from GoogleYesterday, over on the Google Inside Search blog, Matt Cutts shared 10 recent changes to the Google search algorithms from the last few weeks.

As always these posts can get a bit technical, and anyone subscribed to the feed can just get it from the horses’ mouth. The goal of this post is to put the changes into clearer terms from a SEO perspective:

Translated search titles:
When searching with languages where limited web content is available, Google can translate the English-only results and display the translated titles directly below the English titles in the search results. This also translates the result automatically, thereby increasing the available web content for non-English searchers. If you were selling products that appealed to a global market, but hadn’t yet invested in translations/global site structure, this could drive fresh traffic to your sites/products.

Better Snippets:
Google’s mantra is always ‘content, content, + more content’, and now the snippet code is focusing on the page content vs. header/menu areas. Because of the way sites use keywords in the headers/menus, coding the snippets to seek out body content will result in more relevant text in search snippets.

Improved Google generated page titles:
When a page is lacking a title, Google has code in place to assign a title to the page using various signals. A key signal used is back-link anchor text pointing to the page. If a site has a ton of duplicate anchor text in the back-links, Google has found that putting less emphasis on those links creates a far more relevant title than previously. In this way the titles in the search results should be much less misleading.

Improved Russian auto-complete:
Languages are a constant headache for search engines, and new features like auto-complete can take a very long time to mature in languages outside of English. Recently the prediction system for auto-completed queries was improved to avoid overly long comparisons to the partial query to make auto-complete function much better in Russian, and closer to how well it works for English queries.

More information in application snippets:
Last week Google announced a new method of improved snippets for applications. The feature’s pretty technical and looks like an entire blog post is coming on just this topic. Here’s an example image that hopefully gives you a gist of how the snippets are giving details, like prices, ratings, and user reviews.

Example of application snippet from Google search results.

The feature has been very popular and Google recently added even more options that will elicit a full blog post soon here.

Less document relevance in Image searches:
If you look up search engine optimization in Wikipedia and look at the entry for Image search optimization you will note that there’s really nothing to say about SEO tactics towards images. This hasn’t been true, there are signals that Google has to look for when deciding what image to show for a particular keyword.
Previously, an image referenced in PDF or other searchable documents multiple times would get higher placement in the results. Google has done away with this signal as it wasn’t giving improved results and could easily be abused. *Innocent whistling*

Higher ranking signals on fresh content:
Consider if you will, how Google would look if they never gave new sites/fresh content a shot at the top, or a moment in the limelight? By default most ratings systems will show you the ‘best of the most recent’ by default just to avoid older content dominating the results. As a person on the phones taking SEO leads I can tell you there’s always been a ’10 mins of fame’ situation on Google where the explainable happens in the search results with fresh sites/content, only to return to normal later on when the dust settles. Google claims the recent change impacts roughly 35% of total search traffic which could be a significant boost for sites that take the time to publish fresh content, or for new sites looking for a chance to be seen.

Improved official page detection:
We’ve blogged recently about the importance of the rel=author attributes, tying your content to a G+ profile, and completing the circle with a back-link from the profile to your site. Google’s added even more methods to establish ‘offical’ pages and is continuing to give ‘official’ pages higher rankings on searches where authority is important. If you missed our article on this topic from last week, here’s the link.

Better date specific results:
The date a page is discovered may not always be the date the information is published. Google has the difficult task of sorting out the ‘date’ relevance for search results, and they keep improving on this where possible. A good example would be using duplicate matches to avoid showing you a 3 year old article that was posted two days ago if you specify that you only want results from say ‘last week’.

Enhanced prediction for non-Latin characters:
You’d think it’s hard enough to get a predictive query straight when the character set is limited to Latin, and you’d be right. When it takes several keystrokes to complete a single character in non-Latin, a service like Google’s auto-complete would be hard pressed to know when to start guessing. Previous to this update predictions in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew were giving gibberish results as the user was forming characters.

These are 10 changes out of 500+ made so far this year. We try to document the most important changes for you but there’s lots of times where Google can’t release info because of exploits/cheating. When that happens you’ll see us chime in with experiments and our personal experience when we can. So while I’d normally suggest folks interested in this topic subscribe to the inside search blog, we know that you’ll only be getting part of the story by doing so. ;)

SEO news blog post by @ 1:16 pm on November 15, 2011


 

Google+ plus company profiles, plus company page, plus site link?

Pleasing plus is presently proving to be a problem with the plethora of possibilities. Confused by all the Plus linking options suddenly available? Here’s a round-up of what it looks like right now.

  1. Create a Google+ page for the company.
  2. Create employee G+ pages.
  3. Add your employee G+ pages to the company.
  4. Add a link or badge from your website to the G+ page for the company.
  5. Add rel=author links between content on your site and your employee pages.
  6. Add +1 options to the homepage and content/product pages.

Here’s a very busy illustration of the process:

URLs and Code Pages
Create Google+ Pages
Link your website to the Company G+ page
Add rel=author links between your content pages and the employee G+ pages.
Make sure your site’s landing page, content (blog), and product pages have +1 buttons.

I’d put your content/blog posts on your website first, and then follow up with a share to the G+ profile page of the employee/author responsible for the content.

That’s the whole process for G+ interaction between a website, staff pages, and the company page. Doing this properly will tell Google your content is legitimate and maximize the potential ranking signals for your site as it pertains to Google Plus.

Last step is getting folks to follow your Google+ page, hit the +1 buttons, and interact with your Google Plus postings/profile. We’ll have some ideas for this and followers other social networks as the excitement over recent Panda updates quells and we have more time to get back to addressing followers/traffic. Don’t forget that past articles (of which we’ve had a few) may still apply or at least offer some ideas.

Hope everyone has a good long weekend!

SEO news blog post by @ 3:22 pm on November 10, 2011


 

Why Great Content Is Seldom Seen

milk carton

The post-panda Internet has left many website owners desperate to regain former rankings. The main directive of the new algorithm was to force websites to produce higher quality, relevant content on their websites if they hoped to remain competitive and to keep or increase their SERP rankings.

With the advent of social media en masse, Google (and the web in general) began using the public sharing of a website’s content across social networks as a predominant search engine ranking factor.

While this was a wonderful idea from a user perspective as it forced sites to produce better quality content for their visitors, many content developers found that their rankings were still suffering due to an apparent inability to generate interest in the wonderful content they were developing.

"Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases."

Often we produce what we feel is great content only to find our efforts falling upon deaf ears. In most cases it is not the content that fails but is more often the result of what we do (or do not do) once the content has been created. Great ideas do not simply propagate themselves into the collective consciousness of the public. Viral web content is the reward of a well devised promotion and a carefully planned implementation strategy. The deployment of your content marketing strategy is crucial to its success.

Most of us rate how "great" content is by the number of page visits, tweets, or likes that the post receives; but what makes good content and more importantly, what can you do to ensure that it is distributed by as many visitors as possible?

Credibility

The best content comes from writing about topics that you know about. Those subjects that you have intimate knowledge about or are derived from your own experiences will always make for more credible content and will be considered higher quality content from a reader’s perspective.

Good content takes time and effort to develop. Great works (in any media) rarely come on a whim or spontaneous inspiration. If you have taken the time to prepare your piece by researching the subject and can offer something that is new, fresh or can communicate it in an especially novel or exciting fashion, it is much more likely to be shared by your readers. If you are particularly passionate or verbose in your delivery, your content becomes an effective vehicle for instilling confidence in the readers mind and generates credibility thereby allowing you to be considered a "specialist" in your area of expertise.

Actionably

Effective content should illicit an emotional response, or create a call to action for the reader. Try to make your content actionable. Leave your readers with the sense they have gained wisdom from your piece and give them something they can take away from it. Content will be shared more readily if it speaks to your readers directly in a more actionable way. A particularity well written piece of content will almost share itself. If you can be proud of the content you have developed and are excited to share it with others, chances are that your readers will want to share it as well.

Marketing

Once you have taken the time to do your research and have composed a wonderful piece of content, how do you get others to read it and share it? While great content is more likely to be shared virally, it is utterly useless without the uses of proper exploitation and a comprehensive marketing strategy.

The first distribution base for your content can be to the friends, coworkers and acquaintances in your email contacts. Remember that it is probably okay to ask your close contacts if they would mind redistributing your content as well. Customer newsletters are still a viable option to use if you have one in place.

"Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty."

Effective syndication relies on your company having a strong social media presence. Reach out to your online community, through your social media profiles that you have setup. While there are a myriad of social networks you can share your content with, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular and are the best places to start syndicating your content. Don’t neglect other niche market social networks that may be closely geared towards your industry as well.

Delivery

Timing is everything. You will need to ensure that your content is not being syndicated at ineffective times. Plan to release your content on a Monday morning rather than on a Friday afternoon or on the weekend. Statistics show that most people check their social accounts at the beginning of the work day and after lunch. A 9-5 Monday through Thursday deployment strategy will typically be more effective, with Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays being the most effective days. Remember that it is okay to tweet your content in the morning and again in the afternoon. However, over-using this tactic can quickly annoy your followers.

Plan your content publishing as you would plan a product launch. If it is a particularly large story or news item, you can pre-announce its coming as well. This is an effective way to build consumer anticipation. Consider using a press release with a noteworthy online content syndication service such as PRWeb for your press releases.

Promotion

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons marketing content fails to attract views is due to the lack of follow-through and ongoing promotion of the piece. You need to continue with the promotion of your content long after it has been initially syndicated. Develop a promotion plan that includes reminding people of your content via your social networks and actively work to build links to your content on relevant sites through press releases, your website, guest blogging, online advertising or online radio shows. Any medium where you can gain exposure to your content will be beneficial in securing views.

Any online content takes time to develop traction and get noticed. The Internet has caused most of us to believe success happens overnight. Careful planning and implementation over the course of a well planned promotion, will always yield better returns.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:48 am on November 9, 2011


 

Get your own Google+ Page

Today Google announced they are ready to let users claim pages on the G+ domain. It’s a bit busy over here: Create a Google + Page

Stampede to get Google+ pages.The servers over at Google+ must feel a bit like this?

… but you may want to bother with the line however because this is where you claim your name, brand, trademark, for Google+ pages.

Since I’m waiting in said line-up, I can’t demo the experience and relay first hand info, but I can share what I do know:

- Pages are ‘private’ right now.
- Only the creator has access, so for a company, use the company account
- Access on company pages for other users is coming
- Expect page invites to be a bit excessive on larger profiles to start with

Oh joy my page is waiting for me to setup! Are you folks still reading this? Go!

SEO news blog post by @ 11:55 am on November 8, 2011


 

Finding Your Way With Sitemaps

If you don’t know what a sitemap is, or have never created one…read on. A sitemap is a list of the individual pages on your website displayed in a hierarchical fashion similar to a table of contents, or index. They are sometimes used as a planning tool during the developmental stages of a site design, but more importantly, sitemaps act as a powerful navigational aid by providing a site overview at a glance. Sitemaps also benefit search engine optimization by ensuring that all the pages of a site can be found by web bots.

sitemap image

At one time, sitemaps were viewed as a luxury, or at the very least, not vital. For new sites, they are especially critical as it can take several months for a new site to get crawled and indexed by the search engines. Implementing a sitemap and submitting it to search engines and web analytic utilities such as Google Web Master Tools, will greatly aid in the indexing of your site. Sitemaps do not guarantee all links will be crawled, and being crawled does not guarantee indexing. However, a Sitemap is still the best insurance for getting a search engine to learn about your entire site.

If your site is very large, has a complicated navigation system, or employs Flash or JavaScript menus that do not include html links, parts of the site may never get indexed. Even if you only have a small site, having a sitemap will ensure that all your pages are linked to and ensure that they will be picked up by the crawlers.

Users and crawlers will now be able to access deep links and nested pages much more readily. Having well named, SEO friendly urls in your sitemaps creates the added functionality for users to conduct site-wide searches of the sitemap for specific keywords that they may be looking for in the site. Sitemaps have also been shown to increase PageRank and link popularity to all the pages it links to. While it is more important to have high quality links pointing to your site, you should not underestimate the usefulness of internal links pointing to your own pages.

Sitemaps are written and saved as an .xml file which is the document structure and encoding standard used for webcrawlers to find and parse sitemaps. As such they are very unforgiving and must contain only valid XML syntax. (http://validator.w3.org/ ) Sites are able to be prioritized on an sliding scale from 0.1 to 1.0. Sitemaps are also beneficial in letting search engine bots know when you last updated your website.

Even after reading this post you are still not convinced of the benefits of a sitemap, remember that Google has stated that a sitemap is a ranking factor for your site. Although it may be a small one, added together with several other smaller ranking factors, they all add up to substantial ranking factors and is considered the best practice for any website.

For further information, check out this page in the Google Webmaster Tools Help.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:52 am on November 2, 2011

Categories:Google,SEO Tips

 

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